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Safety of remaining troops paramount

Iain Lees-Galloway
Defence Spokesperson

22 August 2012

Safety of remaining troops paramount

The Prime Minister and Minister of Defence appear to be at odds over extending operations of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction into the Baghlan province of Afghanistan, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway says.

“Two weeks ago John Key made a public announcement about the PRT extending patrols into Baghlan because of ‘a gap’ in security arrangements.

“Earlier today Jonathan Coleman was reported as saying the government needed a clear understanding of the risks defence personnel would be facing and the implications of wider patrolling versus other options before any decision on extending operations was made.

“Yet in the House this afternoon, when asked why the Government announced the commencement of patrols in Baghlan without that understanding, the Prime Minister rejected the claim.

“Mr Key and Mr Coleman are giving us two different stories. Either the role and safety of the PRT in Baghlan was clear before the announcement or it wasn’t. They can’t have it both ways.

“Whatever the truth, it is now up to the Government to set a firm date for the withdrawal of our troops and ensure the final months of their deployment are made as safe as possible.

“Withdrawal must be completed as soon as possible. Everyone accepts that doing so in an orderly fashion will take some time. But while our forces remain, improving their safety in an increasingly hostile situation must be John Key’s top priority.

“That means making sure members of the PRT are equipped with the necessary vehicles and weapons to counter attacks and defend themselves against opposing forces.

“Any extension of patrols should not take place until the equipment to do that job is available.

“In future it would be best if the Prime Minister did not signal the tactics that will be used by our armed forces, especially without the necessary facts to do so," said Iain Lees-Galloway.

ENDS

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